[OPE-L:4425] RE: Laws of motion

andrew klima (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Tue, 18 Mar 1997 08:39:24 -0800 (PST)

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A reply to Paul C's ope-l 4424:

Paul wrote: "Marx claimed to be uncovering the 'laws of motion' of capitalist
society. This phrase is not accidental. It is a direct borrowing from
mechanics, the queen of the sciences. It implies an ambitious goal, to
be able to detect in economic development, processes with a law governed
regularity comparable to the laws Newton discovered to underly planetary

It is quite right that this phrase isn't accidental. It implies just what
Paul says. But it is a misquote.

I'm not saying that the translation is wrong or anything like that. I'm
saying that this phrase does not appear in the Preface to the 1st edition of
*Capital*. This misquoting here (not just on Paul's part, but on the part of
the editors of the NLR [back cover of Vol. II of Capital], etc., etc. etc.) is
therefore what is not accidental; it manifests a deep and widespread
misunderstanding of the work, and a deeply ingrained prejudice, when so many
people read the words on the page incorrectly.

Paul: "However if Kliman is to be believed, and such tests are meaningless,
then, for the sake of
preserving Marx's transformation against Bortkiewitz's critique, Kliman has
Marx as a scientist. If his laws of motion are correct he can take his place
alongside Newton and Darwin as one of the greatest scientists of history."

And while we're at it, Marx did not want to dedicate *Capital* to Darwin.
This myth was destroyed by Margaret Fay maybe 15-20 years ago.

I only wish that Paul were right, and that I have succeeded in destroying the
view of Marx as a scientist in the sense Paul means it. But I'm still at it,
plugging away, so who knows?

I had written:
> I hope that the paper which he and Allin will present will discuss these
> issues and the conclusion to which they lead, that his empirical results
> without implications for the theoretical questions addressed by Marx's
> transformation and the TSS interpretation of it.

And Paul responds: "What is the 'theoretical questions' theories about?
They are surely theories about the behaviour of the matterial world,
and as such subject to test."

Well, the first sentence didn't come out right (I do it all the time too) so
I'm not sure what Paul meant. But he doesn't seem to respond to my point.

Of course Paul is right that theories are subject to tests. Yet the tests
must be appropriate to the theories. If I produce a set of numbers showing
that water boils at a mean temperature close to 100 degrees, with a very small
standard deviation, it doesn't imply that the law of the falling rate of
profit is false, for instance. You can't just go around twisting the
implications of theories at will and then testing them. You must test the
actual implications or the whole thing is nonsense.

Again, I hope your presentation will reflect this methodological critique.

Andrew Kliman